After a three year hiatus from bodybuilding I made a comeback in 2011.1 was haunted every day by a burning desire to achieve my goal and become an IFBB pro bodybuilder. It is something I have wanted since the age of 11, when I first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding documentary Pumping Iron on TV.
When I made a return to the competitive stage in 2011 you could apply for a pro card when you placed in the top 10 at the IFBB World Championships, so my aim was to do just that. After five months of hard prep I placed ninth, only to find out that the qualifying criteria for a pro card had been changed to a top six placing.
While I was disappointed I wasn’t deterred. I took 2012 off and worked hard to make the necessary improvements. When I returned in 2013 I was informed that the qualifying criteria had changed once again, and that I now had to achieve a top three placing.
I realised that I had to be in the best shape of my life to do that, so I prepped for another five months, investing a lot of money and time into reaching my goal. I subsequently made South African bodybuilding history when I placed second.
I was ecstatic that I had finally done what was needed to earn a pro card, but that was short lived as I was informed that the goal posts had been shifted yet again. To achieve IFBB pro status an athlete now had to win their division at the World Championships. I was devastated and bitterly disappointed.
I began to feel like my dream would never be realised. In addition, the financial strain, and the time and effort that I was putting into chasing this dream wasn’t fair on my wife and two daughters.
To make matters worse. I was selected to compete in the Amateur Arnold Classic, which was taking place three months later in the US. It was another opportunity to earn a pro card if you won the overall title. Sadly I didn’t have the financial resources to go and, to be honest, coming off the back of a tough three month competition diet and training programme I didn’t think my body could take another three month prep cycle. I was also considering putting an end to my career at that stage. But that’s when I received a call from Andrew from Muscle Evolution, with an invitation to do my first front cover shoot.
It was for the January 2014 issue, and it made me realise how many people in the South African bodybuilding industry were watching me, who all wanted to know what I would do next. I just couldn’t see myself telling everybody that I was going to retire and give up. What type of role model would I be for my kids, and up-and- coming athletes if I gave up on my dreams? That’s when I decided to pick myself up, and mentally started the goal setting process all over again. My goal was simple; compete at the SA Championships, qualify for Worlds, win and finally get that pro card.
Once again I was hammered by numerous challenges, both personally and financially. I was also involved in a car accident, which set me back. I was rapidly running out of time, and with the SA Champs closing in I just couldn’t get it together in time. It was an extremely difficult decision to make, but I decided to pull out. It was a major blow to my plans as it meant I wouldn’t qualify for the World Championships.
Then, for a change, fortune seemed to be in my favour. When the Amateur Olympia Africa was announced I knew this was my big chance. It was going to be held in Gauteng, which meant I would save a lot on travelling costs. It was also in October, which would give me a few extra weeks to catch up on my lost prep. At that point I was 10 weeks out and, to be honest, I pushed to the absolute limit with respect to my training and diet. I put everything I had into preparing for the show. With limited resources I put all my focus into everything I did- every training session, every rep, every cardio session, every meal, even if it meant getting up at 02h00 in the morning to eat my last meal, I did it. When I walked on stage at the Amateur Olympia Africa I was motivated and powered by the images of the challenges I had overcome, the sacrifices my family and I had made, and all the disappointments I had endured up to that point. I was fuelled by the desire to make them all count for something by finally realising my dream. I stood on that stage driven by the need to fight for my dream of becoming a pro. Nothing was going to stop me that night, and nothing did. When I was announced as the overall winner all I could do was kneel down and thank the Lord for giving me this amazing gift. The fact that it happened in front of my wife, kids, family, friends and everybody who came to support me that day made , it an even more VJ memorable memorable experience. Having overcome so much, I cannot wait to start my pro journey.